Afflictions: Part Eighteen

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Arte stood still, at a stalemate with Webb. He was armed with a pistol, trained on her head, and she had a laser trained on him. Between them was a translucent pane, created by her amulet. She had tested its strength before and knew it was good to stand up against about 3 rounds of any caliber that pistol could possibly shoot. After that, it was a gamble. Ashley was off to her side, presumably hiding with her gun pulled. Arte couldn’t risk a glance that direction, but that was the plan, so it was the best guess she had.

“I’ll ask you again. How confident are you in the strength of your barrier?” He spoke calmly, and didn’t move. “I bet it would stop one, but you don’t know how many bullets this clip has. It’s a semi-automatic, so I’m pretty sure I could fire at least two rounds in a second. How many seconds would that buy you? One, maybe two?”

“Certainly long enough to incapacitate you.” She replied, trying to keep her tone as calm as his. She was fairly confident that she could take care of him before he could kill her, but she wasn’t sure if she could do it without killing him. She needed him alive, because he obviously wouldn’t have led them to where he was keeping Jessica. If he dies, they may not be able to find her. She needed to deescalate. “We don’t need to escalate this.”

“I can certainly say that the direction this goes is entirely in the hands of you and your friend there.” He pointed where Ashley should be sitting.

Arte broke, and glanced to verify that Ashley was still there. She was sitting with her gun in her hand, seeming to watch Arte. She looked back and swore.

“Don’t worry, you didn’t give anything away, I already knew beyond a shadow of a doubt.” His face remained emotionless.

Arte took a deep breath, without breaking eye contact with Webb. He’s trying to rattle you. Just keep focused on what’s on hand. She thought to herself. “I’ll be direct, Webb. Where is Jessica?”

“Oh, I see. That’s your game.” He nodded. “Your attempts to frame me are as clumsy as your attempts to track me.”

“Just be honest with us, Webb.” Arte felt her voice waver, but pressed on. “Things look bad for you, but you don’t have to make this any worse.”

He narrowed his eyes. “If you want honesty, why don’t you start first? Who sent you? Who do you work for?”

Arte debated for a moment how much information to give him. Really it would be best to give him nothing. Anything they could give him would put them in a more vulnerable position. That’s not something she could afford. Not with Ashley here. She started to regret bringing Ashley into the field, but knew she was safer by her side than anywhere else, even if they were going into danger.

“We work with the DSR.” Ashley called from her position. “We’re investigating the disappearance of Jessica Maguire.”

Arte swore silently, but this was not the time to bicker.

“I’ve got nothing to do with that.” He replied. “I know why you’re really here, even if you don’t.”

Arte raised an eyebrow. “Why are we here then?”

“Why don’t we take the weapons off of each other first?” He suggested, waiting for her to make the first move.

She slowly repositioned the laser from him, in sync with how far he moved his gun. “Alright. Now why do you think we’re here?”

Webb left his gun angled down and to the side, but still ready to fire. “You want the thing that gives me my powers. I can see you already have one of your own, so I imagine that’s how you pinpointed me. I hate to tell you, but there’s at least two other groups that want it more badly than you, and none of you are smart enough to take it from me.”

“So you’re saying you didn’t kidnap Jessica, and you’re being targeted because you’re in possession of an artifact?” Arte didn’t fully buy it, but it was possible. Regardless she still hadn’t seen anything that showed that he didn’t kidnap Jessica. He had no alibi, and was by far the strangest individual at the school.

“That’s correct.” He nodded. “Even if you didn’t know it, your superiors, or someone else, is framing me so they can arrest me or shoot me dead and take it off of me.”

“Then provide some evidence of where you were on the night she disappeared.”

“I was at home, and I live alone. There is no evidence.” He kept his eyes trained on her. “You’d have to be dense to think that me having evidence would exonerate me in any way. There’s at least two other factions involved in this, and it would be absolutely stupid to have your source of information on people at the school actually be the one to abduct the kid.”

Arte thought for a moment. He had a point, but he was still one of the most suspicious figures totally without an alibi. His statement would be true if she was abducted by some large organization, but if he was just a lone maniac, then not so much. She was about to reply, but was cut off by Ashley.

“You’ve said a couple of times that even if we don’t know about this conspiracy, our bosses do. What makes you think we don’t know?”

Arte’s heart was racing. Ashley was drawing too much attention to herself. The whole point of this plan was to keep her safe.

“I’ve been watching your face.” He points to Arte. “You’ve not told one lie, so thusly you’ve been sent on a false mission.”

“So what you’re saying is that you can tell if we’re lying right?” Ashley asked, starting to get up from her position.

“That’s correct.” His glance shifted towards Ashley.

“Then you’ll know we’re telling the truth when we say that we have no intention of harming you over your artifact. We just want to find Jessica, and bring whoever kidnapped her to justice.” She was totally out of cover now, dangling her gun away from herself.

“Ashley what are you doing?” Arte whispered, moving the shield to cover her.

“I’ve got an idea, just let me talk to him.” She whispered back.

Arte started to object, but Ashley went forwards anyways.

“I’d say I believe you.” He answered, not moving his gun from its lowered position.

“And you don’t have any strict proof of where you were the night Jessica disappeared?” Ashley stopped when she was right next to Arte, and placed her gun on the floor.

“Correct.”

“Then would you let us bring in a friend who can read your mind and prove you right?”

Arte gasped. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of that. Vanessa could help them out here.

“After I verify what their power does, then certainly.” He nodded. “Bring them in.”


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Hello traveler! You’ve happened upon my serial, or maybe found it intentionally. If you like what you see, be sure to check out the reading guide and read the rest of the series! This may be season 3, but there’s pretty comprehensive recaps, so it’s not as if there’s an enormous backlog.

In combat, many things are uncertain. You may be waiting for a blow that never comes. That is why I decided to delay this post by a completely random amount of time. Yes indeed, I definitely did not get swamped with work and forget to upload, but if I did, cut me some slack, it’s been a little bit since I slipped, haha.

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